Ahead of the game: Why play is the key to children’s future success

by Chloe Wilkinson, Dr Felicia Low

Play is an excellent way to help children’s brains grow and develop important cognitive, socioemotional and physical skills.

Children benefit best from experiencing both structured and unstructured (free) play as each has benefits that complement each other and contribute to children’s development in different ways. Unfortunately, many aspects of modern society make it difficult for children to play, such as limited access to safe outdoor spaces, high living costs that put pressure on parents, and societal expectations for children to participate in adult-directed activities.

In this brief, we discuss the manifold benefits of play for children’s development and the measures needed to protect children’s ability to play.

These include family/whānau support such as paid parental leave, mental health support, and affordable housing; prioritising play in school and early childcare curricula; and policies that preserve play opportunities in densely populated areas and invest in community initiatives that promote play.

Download the full evidence brief

Download the one-page summary

Download the resource on facilitating play

Media release: Brain development is child’s play

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